What is it?

A smear is taken as part of a ‘routine’ check-up. A smear is a simple test that allows for the early detection of cervical cancer and the different precancerous stages.

When is it indicated?

The general guideline is: a smear everythree years from the age of 25.

  • If you have been tested regularly and the last few smears were fine, then you can stop when you reach age 65. The risk that a new cervical cancer develops after that is very small.
  • If you have been sexually active from an early age, it may be better to start getting tested earlier, staring from age 20, for example.

Test procedure

  • The physician uses a small brush to remove a few loose cells from the cervical wall. In a laboratory, the cells are stained and examined for abnormalities.
  • Smear tests are generally not painful, but inserting the speculum and the removal of cells may feel briefly uncomfortable.

Results

If a smear test result is normal, the risk of cervical cancer is very small. In case of a precancerous stage, there is a small chance of developing cervical cancer at a later date. Simple treatment of a precancerous stage may prevent substantial cancer surgery years later.

If abnormal cells are detected in a smear test, the attending physician will contact you for additional tests and, potentially, start treatment.

Abnormal cervical smear

If abnormal cells are detected in a smear test, the attending physician will contact you for additional tests and, potentially, start treatment.

In that case, the gynaecologist carefully examines the cervix with a microscope (colposcopy). Small lesions in the cervix with signs of early malignancy can be recognised this way. If required, a small tissue sample can be removed from this area of abnormality for further testing (biopsy). If the colonoscopy and/or biopsy confirm an abnormality that is significant enough, it is indicated for treatment. Treatment is therefore purely preventative to avoid that it worsens.

Centres and specialist areas

General gynaecology

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Van Den Broecke Dirk